Ask an AT (Appalachian Trail) thru-hiker (one who completed the entire 2,168 miles from Springer Mountain, GA to Mount Katahdin, ME) what they think about Pennsylvania and their likely response will be, “What, Rocksylvania?” along with a painful wince. That’s because in Pennsylvania hikers must become climbers, or they won’t finish.


Portions of the AT get so rocky in Pennsylvania that the “white blaze” symbols that mark the AT from Georgia to Maine are painted on top of rocks and boulders rather than on trees as they are the entire 2000+ miles of the trail.


But the views are worth the climb. Bella, my four-legged trail blazer, joined Ed and I on our final hike of 2015 on a winter-defying December day. A half-hour into our trek I was down to a t-shirt and warmup jacket, sweating profusely, and loving every second of it. Above the timberline vistas of farmland and distant mountains are reward for the work.

Hiking partners Ed (2-legged) and Bella (4-legged) navigate boulders along the ridge.

Hiking partners Ed (2-legged) and Bella (4-legged) navigate boulders along the ridge.

There are portions of the ridge you can motor along at a steady pace and make time, others where each step is treacherous, and trying to make time can lead to a wrong move and cause a twisted ankle, or worse.

The white blazes that mark the AT are spread so thin in some stretches of the trail it’s easy to lose sight of them and go off course. Bella’s sense to sniff her way to the next marker is uncanny. Her nose for the trail seems to get stronger with age.


Every mile is worth the perspiration. IMG_0051_2



About Jim Brennan

Jim is a Philadelphia-based writer, author, poet and editor for the Schuylkill Valley Journal.
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12 Responses to Rock-sylvania

  1. Paul B says:

    Fantastic photos Jim, stunningly beautiful.


  2. LB says:

    That third photo down really shows those rocks! Here in Virginia, we know that more of the A.T. passes through our state than any other. Now I know that PA is the rocky state.
    And now I want to learn what all the other states are known for!
    so glad you enjoyed the day, Jim


    • Jim Brennan says:

      I’ve gotten to talk to a lot of thru hikers on the At, and they seem to like all of the states for different reasons. They’ll talk about the start at Springer Mountain Georgia, Smoky Mountains in the South, rocky Pennsylvania, New England, and that Maine is rocky as well. There is an allure to being on the trail, but I haven’t had the urge to hike all 2,100 miles, YET.


  3. Sophie33 says:

    Lovely views!!! I would happily have joined you & your lovely dog for a good walk all together! xxx


  4. Beautiful Pennsylvania!


  5. janerunswild says:

    Beautiful pics! Happy hiking!


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